Wednesday, June 16, 2004

No blood. That's why you're seeing TV footage of Paul Johnson, the hostage in Saudi Arabia, even though you didn't see the actual sawing off of Nick Berg's head on your local news (though I certainly saw parts of that video on TV that didn't involve actual use of the blade).

I've been saying this for a while now: The mainstream press doesn't like to show blood -- not deep gashes from dog teeth at Abu Ghraib and not the removal of Berg's head. Johnson seems to have no fresh, gaping wounds, so images of his captivity are OK.

In a silly post at Rantingprofs, Cori Dauber argues that the reason for the seeming double standard is that, in our wussy, feminized culture, we're encouraged to get teary-eyed (for Johnson) but not angry (for Berg):

The footage of Berg's death is the footage of a fait accompli....

The footage of the fait accompli calls forth
anger. The footage of the on-going event calls forth sympathy. The one is deemed inappropriate (remember all those anger management shrinks on the air after September 11th?),* not an emotional response so much as a state demanding a theraputic response, to be avoided at all costs in this Oprah nation. The other is to be encouraged whenever possible, so that we might all "feel one another's pain"...

But wouldn't explicit images of blood and sexual violation at U.S.-run prisons overseas lead Oprah Nation to have even more moral-clarity-sapping, moist-eyed sympathy for the detainees? So why aren't the truly horrid images we've heard so much about all over the airwaves and the front pages?

Of course, maybe Dauber hasn't thought about this because, as Pandagon's Jesse Taylor notes, she doesn't even seem to know that abuse at Abu Ghraib consisted of more than panties on men's heads, even though she's a gen-yoo-wine Professor of Communications Studies whose "focus since September 11th has been on the performance of the media in its coverage of the war on terrorism."


*Er, no, not really.

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